Cardiff City Clinches First Promotion Bid for Next Season

Craig Bellamy

 

Not many 0-0 draws will be celebrated in the fashion that Cardiff City celebrated their scoreless match with Charlton Athletic on Tuesday night.

By earning the one point at the Cardiff City Stadium, the Bluebirds became the first club to secure promotion from the Championship to the Premier League.

Malky Mackay’s club have been dominant in the second division all season. With a 13-point gap on the playoff positions, third through sixth, with three matches remaining, a spot in the EPL was easily secured.

The promotion marks the first time in 53 years that Cardiff will play in the English top flight and it will give Welsh football fans a chance to see a Welsh derby in the EPL next season between the Bluebirds and Swansea City.

As for how the rest of the Championship clubs fared on Tuesday, second-placed Hull City were unable to extend the gap on third-placed Watford after losing 1-0 on the road to Wolverhampton.

Third-placed Watford also fell on the road on Tuesday by losing 1-0 to Millwall at The Den.

Brighton and Hove Albion jumped over Crystal Palace in the race for fourth by playing to a 0-0 draw with Peterborough United. Palace fell 3-0 on the road to Ipswich Town.

In the battle for the final playoff position, which is sixth place in the table, Leicester City reclaimed their spot in the top six by beating seventh-placed Bolton Wanderers, 3-2, at the King Power Stadium.

Jeffrey Schlupp’s 79th minute goal was the game-winner for the Foxes, who lead Bolton and Nottingham Forest by one point in the race for sixth.

A full slate of matches will be played on Friday and Saturday as the race to join Cardiff in the EPL next season intensifies.

Here is how the Championship table looks after play on Tuesday.

Club Matches Played Points Goal Differential
Cardiff City 43 84 27
Hull City 43 77 11
Watford 43 71 23
Brighton & Hove Albion 43 66 18
Crystal Palace 42 66 10
Leicester City 43 64 23
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Bayern Munich vs Wolfsburg DFB Pokal Preview: Hosts to keep up treble pursuit

Robben and Shaqiri

 

PROBABLE LINEUPS

 

BAYERN

Neuer
Lahm, Van Buyten, Dante, Alaba
Martinez, Schweinsteiger
Robben, Muller, Ribery
Mandzukic
WOLFSBURG
 
Benaglio
Fagner, Naldo, Kjaer, Rodriguez
Medojevic, Polak
Olic, Diego, Arnold
Dost

Bayern Munich should name a full-strength side for the visit of Wolfsburg. Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Dante, David Alaba, Javi Martinez, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Mandzukic all got a rest for the 4-0 win over Nurnberg on Saturday, but are likely to come back into the line-up.

Toni Kroos and Holger Badstuber are the only two long-term absentees with thigh and knee injuries respectively.

Wolfsburg, meanwhile, will be able to welcome back Fagner, who missed out against Hoffenheim over the weekend due to suspension.

However, Vaclav Pilar (knee) and Vieirinha (muscle strain) are both injured. After a disappointing performance on Saturday, Makoto Hasebe could be axed and replaced by Bas Dost.

  • Bayern Munich have reached the DFB-Pokal final on a total of 18 occasions, winning the competition 15 times. The team with the next most appearances are Schalke on 12.
  • Mario Gomez has scored nine goals from just eight starts this season.
  • Roten striker Mario Mandzukic was brought to German football by Wolfsburg in 2010.
  • Wolfsburg have got the to the Pokal final on one occasion, losing 3-0 to Borussia Monchengladbach.
  • However, they claimed a shock 2-1 quarter-final win over Bayern in Munich to get to the final.
  • Felix Magath, who was sacked by Wolfsburg earlier this season, had also coached Bayern.

Arsenal vs Everton EPL Preview: In-form sides gear up for crucial top four race clash

Arteta battling

 

PROBABLE LINEUPS

 

ARSENAL

Szczesny
Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs
Ramsey, Arteta, Wilshere
Walcott, Giroud, Cazorla

EVERTON


Howard
Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines
Mirallas, Gibson, Osman, Pienaar
Fellaini
Jelavic

Out-of-favour goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny looks set to return to the Arsenal starting XI, with Arsene Wenger admitting Lukasz Fabianski is a “major doubt” after taking a kick to the ribs against Norwich.

Per Mertesacker could return from suspension to the starting line-up in place of Thomas Vermaelen, who along with Nacho Monreal will challenge left-back Kieran Gibbs for the team.

Theo Walcott’s return from injury could see the forward start on the right flank in place of Gervinho, while manager Arsene Wenger faces a choice between keeping Aaron Ramsey in midfield and naming Santi Cazorla on the left flank, or moving the playmaker infield and adding Lukas Podolski on the left.

Tomas Rosicky (hamstring) is doubtful and could miss out along with long-term casualty Abou Diaby (knee).

Everton have no new injury concerns and could name the side that beat QPR on Saturday, with Seamus Coleman set to continue at right-back while Tony Hibbert lacks fitness after a long-term injury.

Striker Victor Anichebe has started the Toffees’ last four league matches and could again lead the line ahead of the recently returned Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar, but Nikica Jelavic is another option.

  • Arsenal have reached the Champions League last 16 in each of the last 12 seasons and are currently third, a point ahead of rivals Tottenham and Chelsea, who have a game in hand.
  • The Gunners have won eight of their last ten games and are second only to runaway leaders Manchester United in the form table.
  • Since Christmas, Arsenal have scored in every game bar the 2-0 loss to Manchester City. When Arsene Wenger’s side have scored first in the league this season, they have never lost a game.
  • Each of Olivier Giroud’s last ten Premier League goals this season have been scored at the Emirates Stadium.
  • Everton have not finished in the top four since 2005 and are currently in sixth place, three points from Chelsea and Tottenham and four from the Gunners as they seek to qualify for the Champions League.
  • The attacking contribution of the returning Marouane Fellaini has been vital for David Moyes’ men this campaign. The Belgium midfielder’s goals and assists have won the Merseysiders 12 points in the league.
  • The Toffees have scored the joint-highest amount of headed goals (13) in this year’s Premier League. The other side are league leaders Manchester United.
  • Everton have failed to beat Arsenal in the sides’ 11 most recent encounters, but went close earlier this season in the 1-1 draw between the two at Goodison Park in November.

Ronaldo Must Be at His Best for Real Madrid to Beat Borussia Dortmund

Ronaldo Celebrating

 

When Real Madrid faces Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League semifinals, you might think that the Spanish side is the prohibitive favorite to advance to the final.

You would be incorrect, I’m afraid.

Borussia Dortmund still hasn’t lost a single game in this year’s Champions League, beat Los Blancos 2-1 in Germany during the group stage in November and tied them 2-2 in Madrid two weeks later, after Mesut Ozil tied the game for Real Madrid in the 89th minute. For that reason, it will be up to Cristiano Ronaldo to lead his side to victory.

Again.

It may seem obvious that Ronaldo must be on his form against Dortmund, but generally Los Blancos have enough talent to beat opponents even if he isn’t the man of the match. Against Dortmund, I’m not so sure that’s the case.

While Bayern Munich has already wrapped up Bundesliga, Dortmund has lost just once in all competitions since the beginning of March and has proven to be one of the elite sides in Europe this season. Players like Marco Reus, Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski would start for most clubs in the world.

Plus, Dortmund has the look of a charmed team after scoring two goals in stoppage time against Malaga to advance to the semifinals. Sometimes, nothing in sports is more insurmountable than a team with a bit of luck on its side.

And seeing as they would have moved forward on aggregate had the team’s group stage meeting been a semifinal, some folks might even consider Dortmund the favorites.

Real Madrid is the more popular squad, however, so it’s no surprise that over at Bovada Los Blancos are considered the favorites to reach the final. The fact that Ronaldo is the best player in the game might alone be the reason Real Madrid is favored.

And Ronaldo will have to play like the best player. He’s once again having an epic season, with 50 goals and seven assists in all competitions for Los Blancos. He’s been particularly dangerous of late, scoring in seven straight games for Real Madrid (with nine goals during that time).

With a league title pretty much out of the question at this point, winning a Champions League title is now the top priority for Real Madrid. And you have to think Ronaldo would like nothing more than leading his team to that title rather than seeing it go to Lionel Messi and Barcelona.

Not that it’s a given that Barca can get past Bayern Munich, of course. In fact, I think it’s the German side that will win that tie, but that’s just me.

In the end, must like Messi must come up huge for Barca against Bayern Munich, Ronaldo must be at his very best against Dortmund. Barcelona and Real Madrid might be considered the top superpowers in European football, but these German sides are the real deal and aren’t about to be intimidated.

Radamel Falcao Would Not Be the Answer for Manchester United

Falcao

 

 

Radamel Falcao is a world-class striker, but is he really going to solve Manchester United’s problems?

 

Sir Alex Ferguson and the Red Devils apparently believe so, as the club is reportedly throwing its name in the hat

It’s almost impossible to argue that United’s attack isn’t strengthened by bringing in the Colombian striker. A partnership of Falcao and Robin van Persie would be the most intimidating in the world.

Goals haven’t exactly been a problem for Manchester United, though. The Red Devils have scored 71 times in the Premier League, which is 10 more than Chelsea, who is in second place.

The Wayne Rooney transfer rumors are seemingly neverending, so the arrival of Falcao would likely either precede or follow the departure of Rooney. You can see where United would want to replace a striker of Rooney’s reputation with another big-name player.

But what about Javier Hernandez?

Chicharito is still only 24 years old. While not the quality of Falcao at this point, there’s every reason to expect the Mexican striker would be able to suffice in the absence of Rooney. Hernandez has scored 11 goals in 26 domestic and European league matches this season. He’s energetic and always manages to pounce on any chance in the box. You could very easily see Hernandez scoring 20 goals next season if he’s given a starting role. Plus, the money spent on Falcao would inevitably subtract money from the transfer budget that could be spent much more wisely elsewhere. Ferguson is not a heavy spender during the summer, so it’s unrealistic to expect him to break the bank this season.

United spent a little over £50 million on the trio of David de Gea, Ashley Young and Phil Jones back in the summer of 2011. Something comparable could be expected this summer. But with Falcao taking up £27 million, that doesn’t leave much to spend on what has been United’s biggest issue: midfield.

Surely the club would be much better off spending the lion’s share of the transfer budget on a player like Kevin Strootman, Sven Bender, Mario Gotze, Isco, Victor Wanyama, Etienne Capoue or any combination of those players.

Manchester United is built for success in England. There’s no doubt about that. Bringing in Falcao would be a shot across the bow of Europe’s elite that the Red Devils are back to take their place atop the throne of club football. But what good will Falcao be if Ferguson leaves the midfield untouched?

It’s hard to envision United being any more successful in Europe than it currently is by continuing to rely on Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Anderson to occupy the midfield. You can have the best strikers in the world, but there rendered ineffective against good clubs when you don’t have a ball-winner or someone to pull the strings in the midfield.

Falcao is a great player, but he should not be the top transfer target for Manchester United this season.

 

Basel vs Tottenham Europa League Preview: Spurs face stern test to keep European quest alive

Vilas Boas

 

PROBABLE LINEUPS

 

BASEL

Sommer
Steinhofer, Voser, Dragovic, Schar
Salah, Cabral, F Frei, Stocker
Streller, A Frei
TOTTENHAM

Friedel
Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto
Sigurdsson, Parker, Dembele, HoltbyDempsey
Adebayor

After being punished for their complacency at White Hart Lane, Tottenham are in need of a stellar showing to seal victory on their travels for the first time in six outings.

And with William Gallas (calf), Aaron Lennon (knee) and talisman Gareth Bale (ankle) all becoming fresh additions to the Spurs treatment table after last week’s encounter, Andre Villas-Boas will be forced into a number of changes to the starting line-up.

With Jermaine Defoe aggravating an ongoing pelvic injury, Emmanuel Adebayor is expected to lead the line on Thursday, whilst Kyle Naughton is expected to make way for Kyle Walker as the bustling right-back returns from suspension.

Gylfi Sigurdsson is likely to be handed a start after his late equaliser against Everton, alongside Michael Dawson who is expected to fill in for the injured Gallas and Brad Friedel will once again come in for Hugo Lloris.

Basel were little short of a revelation in the first leg, with Marco Streller, Valentin Stocker and Mohamad Salah all asking a number of questions of the Tottenham rearguard.

The tricky trio are all expected to start Thursday’s clash and may be joined by the experienced Alexander Frei if coach Murat Yakin elects to field two strikers on home turf.

Park Joo-Ho and Marcelo Diaz are both back in contention after returning from suspension, whilst the now-fit Cabral could claim a place in the starting eleven after his second half-cameo at White Hart Lane.

Philipp Degen has also recovered from injury, but is unlikely to displace Mohamed Salah in the starting eleven after the Egyptian’s sterling performance in the first leg.

  • Tottenham goalkeeper Brad Friedel is the oldest player left in this year’s competition and, at 41, is older than both Andre Villas-Boas and Basel coach Murat Yakin.
  • Jan Vertonghen  has appeared in all 1020 minutes of Tottenham’s Europa League campaign.
  • Spurs and Rubin Kazan are the only two survivors from the seven clubs granted automatic entry to the Europa League at the group stage.
  • Tottenham have not won a game in any competition without the injured Gareth Bale scoring since New Years Day.
  • Basel have tasted defeat just once since November, when they lost 1-0 away to Zenit St Petersburg in the last-16 of the Europa League.
  • The Swiss champions have won their last four home Europa League games without conceding a single goal.
  • Basel have picked up 23 yellow cards and three red cards in this year’s competition, more so than any other side.

Rubin Kazan vs Chelsea Europa League Preview: Visitors looking to protect two-goal aggregate lead in Moscow

Torres headed goal

 

PROBABLE LINEUPS

 

RUBIN KAZAN

Ryzhikov
Kaleshin, Navas, Sharonov, Ansaldi
Orbaiz, Natcho,
Kasaev, Eremenko, Karadeniz
 
Rondon
CHELSEA

Cech
Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Terry, Ake
Lampard, Mikel,
Moses, Oscar
, Hazard
Torres

Vladimir Dyadyun will compete for a place up front with Salomon Rondon for the hosts, who have no injury concerns to speak of.

Cesar Navas, Ivan Marcano and Roman Sharonov will fight for two places in the centre of defence, while Oleg Kuzmin may replace Gokdeniz Karadeniz on the right-hand side of midfield.

Chelsea face a potential dilemma at left-back, with the injured Ashley Cole’s (hamstring) usual deputy Ryan Bertrand (virus) unfit to travel. Nathan Ake is the club’s only other natural left-back, while Paulo Ferreira could fill in from his preferred right-back position.

Gary Cahill is still a couple of weeks away from returning after undergoing minor arthroscopic surgery to shave the meniscus on the knee he damaged in last month’s win against West Ham.

With Demba Ba cup-tied, Fernando Torres will continue up front, having scored twice in the first leg at Stamford Bridge.

David Luiz, Ramires and Juan Mata are likely to be rested after playing three games in less than a week, so John Terry, Frank Lampard and Victor Moses should come into the starting line-up.

  • Chelsea have won all five of their previous games against Russian sides, conceding just twice in the process.
  • The Blues beat Spartak Moscow 2-0 on their last visit to the Luzhniki Stadium, in the 2010-11 Champions League group stage.
  • John Terry  will make his 100th European appearance if he plays in Moscow.
  • Rubin‘s only previous home game against English opponents resulted in a 1-0 win over Tottenham in last season’s Europa League.
  • However, the Russians’ only three defeats in their last 22 European ‘home’ games have come when hosting their matches in Moscow, as opposed to their Tsentralnyi Stadion in Kazan.
  • Having already eliminated Europa League winners Atletico Madrid in the round of 32, Rubin could complete an unlikely double of knocking out the holders of both of last season’s European trophies if they overcome Champions League holders Chelsea.